Bonding With Your Cat -- It's Not As Easy As You Think
Jack on top of the refrigerator
At least it hasn't been for me. I still feel sometimes we haven't entirely reached that peak of truly being bonded. That we're still a work in progress.
Last year, I went on the hunt to get a kitten. The ideal plan was to get him while I was on vacation so I'd have plenty of time with him before I had to leave him alone when I went to work. Unfortunately, in my life, nothing usually goes to plan. I didn't find a kitten until after I'd gotten back from my vacation. I couldn't even time it so I could have two days off to spend with him. I got my little black green-eyed Jack when he was nine weeks old when I had to go to work the very next day, so we only had one night together before I had to leave him alone all day while I was at work.
It's interesting how you look at things as an adult opposed to as a child. As a child, I really didn't think about how the mother cat must feel having her babies taken from her and given away to other people. Someone told me the mother cat doesn't care. As an adult, the whole thing kind of bothers me. To the point I had serious doubts if I was doing the right thing getting Jack when I'd have to leave him alone so much when I was at work.
The weird thing was every where I was going, all these black cats were showing up. There was a post card with a black kitten on it. I bought a used book in a book store and inside I found a book marker with a black cat on it. I was even out taking a driving lesson [until I moved to a small town in Vermont I never really needed to know how to drive] and I saw another black cat.
Anyway, I got Jack, obviously. The description of his personality made me think he could handle being left alone 8 1/2 hours every day. He was described as very adventurous and if you came in a room and didn't pay any attention to him, he'd climb up your leg until you paid attention to him. What they didn't mention was he was also very stubborn, single-minded and a bit of a bully. Maybe I should have taken the hint when the rescue place I got him from kept acting like I'd change my mind about taking him when I met him.
Awhile back he was doing a good job at bullying me. I started out feeding him at seven in the morning. But he wanted to eat earlier. I really didn't get what he was doing until he had me getting up at 4:30 in the morning to feed him. Saying no to Jack is not an option. Did I mention he can be a bully. He wouldn't let me sleep. He'd tap me in the face with his paw, he'd bite me and once he even jumped on my head when I pulled the covers over my head. No surprise I got a migraine headache after that. Ever tried sleeping when you've got a cat putting it's face in your face staring at you and breathing on you and when you refuse to open your eyes, even though you know he's there, he meows a very annoyed feed me now meow right in your ear?
A few times I ended up kicking him out of my bedroom and shutting him out. I live in a one bedroom apartment. His litter box is in the bathroom and the bathroom is in my bedroom. I thought once we went on Daylight Savings Time I'd at least be able to sleep to five, but no, Jack can tell time. He woke me up at four in the morning after the time change. That cat can tell time, I kid you not.
Eventually, I cut a deal with him. Yeah, I know that sounds crazy, but it worked. I told Jack if he let me sleep until seven, I'd feed him three times a day. It worked. He figured since he was getting fed an extra time of the day, something was in it for him, and he went along with it. Only bad thing is Jack started developing a little pot belly. A ten month old kitten should not be weighing 11 pounds. That's when I not only cut his feeding back to two times a day, but I cut down on how much I was feeding him.
I know someone and both her cats are morbidly obese. I think if you own a pet, it's your responsibility to make sure you do not overfeed them and make them fat. It's not fair to your pet. It shortens their life. I've stopped letting Jack bully me about the feeding thing, because I have to think of his health and for the most part he's accepted it. A few times while I was waiting for 7:30 to come along, he's bitten at my ankles to let me know he's hungry and wants to be fed NOW, but I tell him he has to wait until his breakfast time. I'm easy-going and I can let people push me around, but not when their health is at stake.
Biting is another thing that's stopped us from bonding. I can't stand to be bit. A few months before I got Jack, I was at this place that had pigs. I haven't met an animal I don't want to pet, except reptiles and animals that growl and bare their teeth at me in a threatening manner. Anyway, I was petting this white pig. He reminded me of Wilbur from Charlotte's Web. Anyway, he was licking my finger, and I thought he liked me, until he bit down on my finger. It's a good thing I yanked my hand away, or I might be missing a finger. I'm probably the only person in the world who didn't think pigs have teeth. So Jack's biting has been a big problem for me.
I really think it's a byproduct of me leaving him alone when I first got him. The first night he fell asleep in my arms and spent all night sleeping on the pillow next to me. The place I got him from didn't tell me they'd been feeding him holistic cat food, so I fed him the regular stuff and it made him puke his little guts up constantly. So not only was I leaving him alone, I made him sick, as well. I was seriously thinking of taking him back to where I got him, because I was worried I couldn't give him the proper care. Anyway, they told me what food they were giving him and I managed to wean him off the holistic and on to Friskies. He only likes Friskie flavors with gravy. When I took him to the vet because of him throwing up, he jumped into my arms wanting me to protect him, that kind of said to me he didn't hate me as much as he was starting to act like. In fact, he was hollering so much on the way to the vets, I think he thought I was taking him back to where I got him.
One night about a week after I'd had him, I had to work a little late, and when I got home he started jumping on my leg trying to bite me. That's kind of when his biting started. I gave him a little slap on his bottom when his biting would get out of hand, but he didn't even notice, and kept going at me. It was suggested I squirt him with water, and I felt like a monster doing it. Then I started picking him up and smothering with kisses every time he started biting me. I even gave him time outs in his carrier, but he spiked my guns by going in the carrier on his own, practically daring me to lock him in, basically saying, "Come on, lock me in here, it doesn't bother me." Eventually, I just accepted he likes biting. Sometimes I'll even let him bite my hand a bit, since he only basically nibbles, but when he starts biting too hard, I call a stop to it. You've got to accept your pet for who he is and love him anyway.
Sometimes I even joke that Jack is bipolar. He'll be all loving to me. He'll be sitting on my chest kneading my arm with his paws, something he's done since he was a baby. He'll be rubbing his face against mine and letting me pet him and kiss him. Then the next moment he'll bite me. Sometimes I think he bites me so we won't get close, which may also go back to me having to leave him alone when I first got him. I think he has trust issues in regards to me.
The biting made me really think he didn't even like me and was unhappy with me, especially when he would be all sweet and loving to my neighbors. Then he kept trying to get out of my apartment every time I opened the door. So I finallyhad it and told him fine, you want to go, then go. He went and sat down by one of the other people's apartments he thought would be a better owner than I was. I slammed the door and just let him stay there. I told him he had a good life where he was and if he went to one of the neighbors they wouldn't treat him as well as I do. My neighbors have cats and those cats don't get to go out for walks like he does, and their apartments are smaller than mine.
I think he found that out for himself when my neighbor brought him back to me, asking if I lost something. Since then Jack hasn't been too friendly towards them. He also doesn't really try to run out of the apartment too much, and when he does he doesn't go far. He either lets me pick him up or he'll come back on his own. He only goes running down the hall if he knows I'm going to chase him and bring him back. I hurt my ankle the other day and I told him I couldn't chase him down that hall, and he turned around and walked back in our apartment on his own.
I quit my job back in January. It's something I don't regret doing, as I found the work situation intolerable, unfortunately I still haven't found work, I don't qualify of unemployment, and the only way I've been able to make money is by giving people rides and I'm not making that much. The upshot is it's allowed Jack and I to spend time together and it's finally allowed us to bond the way we should have had a chance to do when he was a kitten.
About a week ago, I had a chance at a temporary job, unfortunately the man wanted me to stay there 24/7 for a week. When Jack heard me say I was going to be away for a week, the poor little thing wrapped himself in a fetal position and was all limp when I got off the phone and picked him up. So don't think they don't understand what you say, even when you're talking on the phone. I thought maybe I could get a friend to look after him, because I could never leave him alone that long. That would be animal cruelty. She never got back to me and when I went for the job interview he told me it was actually for 10 days, not a week. Jack wasn't the only reason I turned down the job. The person he wanted me to look after seemed to need more care than I was qualified to give. He told me I needed to get over leaving Jack if I wanted to work.
I have left Jack alone, but leaving him ten days straight would be neglect and animal abuse. He can't feed himself. I have him leash trained and take him for a walk every night so he isn't cooped up in a tiny apartment and can get fresh air. If he has abandonment issues about me leaving him for eight hours a day, what's going to happen if I left him alone for ten days. You can't do something like that when you have a pet. You have a responsibility to them.
That's one job I am kicking myself for not taking. If I could have done a split shift, I could have done it. Money is getting really tight and I can't pay my bills. I was even worrying about it a couple of days ago laying in bed. I was wondering if I would have to take Jack back to the rescue place I got him from if things didn't get better soon so I can make sure he's taken care of properly. When I got up and told Jack that I love him, he shook his head no, that I didn't. It was like he has some psychic link to my brain and knew what I'd been thinking about and was saying, "If you're thinking of taking me back there, you don't love me."
People tell me that Jack feels safe and loved with me because instead of sleeping like a normal cat does, he's always sleeping on his back with his legs sprawled open. He always reminds me of the opening credits of Married With Children when Al Bundy sprawls on the couch when he does that. He's the only cat I've ever seen that loves sleeping on his back.
I think your relationship with your pet is the same as your relationship with the people around you. If you want a good relationship, you've got to put something into it and show them you love them and care about them. Their not just animals; their people in their own rights. Every day I pick Jack up and kiss him and tell him I love him. On Jack's part, while he tips his head back so I can kiss him, he also acts like he's trying to push me away by pushing his paws against me so I'll let him go.
As with all relationships; ours is still a work in progress..
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